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Critical Listening as an Aid to Songwriting

An overview of how to analyze an existing song to identify elements which make it successful (or maybe less-than-successful).

Visual artists learn to see elements such as composition, line, color, and value in order to improve their ability to produce the effect they desire in their work.  In the same way, songwriters and learn to listen for elements such as melody, harmony, lyrics, rhythm, and form to improve their own work.

For now, we will point at some existing resources.  First is a series of tutorials for beginning songwriters:

This series focuses mostly on learning to identify the "form" of a song (i.e., chorus, bridge, verse, etc.).  Other elements which we might consider:

  • Melodic structure
  • Harmony / chord progression
  • Meter and rhythm
  • Rhyming, alliteration, and other lyrical techniques
  • Arrangement of the song (how much of the song is still "the same" when played solo with a guitar or piano?)
  • Recording techniques


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